“Why Making a Tide Calendar for Striper Fishing Will Help You Land More Bass” in Field & Stream Online

Want to book a date with a big striped bass? Put in on the calendar! Read my most recent piece, Why Making a Tide Calendar for Striper Fishing Will Help You Land More Bass, currently in Field & Stream Online, and you’ll learn how to build a calendar that notes the best times and tides for fishing the striper marks that you love.

Put it in the books.

A simple Cased Caddis pattern

During last night’s Zoom we talked about Cased Caddis being an important food item for trout this time of year. Here’s a dirt-simple pattern you can try. If you don’t use a bead, just make the body longer before you add the green wormy head. If you wanted to underweight the fly with heavy wire, that’s another option. Have at it, and catch ’em up!

Culton’s Simple Cased Caddis

Hook: 2x strong, 2x-3x long, size 10-14

Tail: Brownish mottled game bird feather fibers

Body: Underweighted with heavy wire (optional); pheasant tail fibers ribbed with copper wire

Head: Green dubbing

Bead: Copper, to size (optional)

Late February notes from a small stream

Last week I made the decision to fish a small stream. My logic was sound. First, I had no interest in dealing with what would surely be a crowded Farmington River. Second, due to some arcane fishing regulations, I wouldn’t be able to fish this brook until early April. Finally, and perhaps most of all, I wanted to see what was going on. Here’s what I found out.

Up solitude! Not another angler for miles. My introvert shone through.

What a workout — no need to do a treadmill cardio session later. I had not planned (foolish on my part) for shin deep virgin snow. I was perspiring gallons after a hundred yards of snow/bushwhacking.

On days like this one (upper 30s, bright sun) you never know what you’re going to get. With all the snowpack, there was certainly going to be a significant melting event. Would that influx of cold water kill the bite? It’s happened before. On this day, sunshine held the trump card. I saw midges and small stoneflies everywhere, and even witnessed char taking emergers in the film.

Lesson re-learned: be careful where you walk. Shelf ice, of course, is never to be trusted. But also be wary of snow pack that hides dangers like this. A step on solid footing, then one through the snow and into the void. Thankfully, no damage, but (if you’ll pardon the expression) you get my drift.

In 90 minutes, I pricked six fish. A few of them were repeat offenders who could not get their mouth around the hook. After a couple of attempts, I let them be. For me, it’s all about fooling the fish.

Since my goal was searching (rather than catching), I stayed with a bushy dry the entire time. I was very surprised at the number of customers. The fish have started to wander from their winter lies, and I did my best business in shallower glides and riffles. Of course, that makes sense given the method — you wouldn’t expect to draw dry fly strikes from fish hanging on the bottom of deeper pools. But 60 days ago those fish were not even present in the shallower water.

Currentseams Tuesday Night Zoom 3/2, 8pm: “Transition Trout: Late Winter/Early Spring Tactics”

The transition from late winter to early spring often means hard times for the erstwhile trout angler. This Currentseams Tuesday Night Zoom will focus on some of the conditions and bugs you may encounter, and how to best unlock those pesky salmo jaws. If you haven’t been getting the Zoom links — I send them out Tuesday late afternoon — please check your spam box. If you’re sending a request to get on the list, please don’t wait until 7:45 p.m. Tuesday night…I won’t be checking my email that late. Thanks!

“Early Season Tactics: Hunting Transition Trout” in the current issue of The Fisherman

Like the title says, you can find my latest piece in the March 2021 issue of The Fisherman magazine. Early Season Tactics: Hunting Transition Trout is about the rough patch of fishing we face in the next month or so. It’s loaded with useful strategies and tactics to help you catch more fish, and includes a guest appearance from UpCountry Sportfishing‘s Torrey Collins. You can read the article here.

Quality content like this usually isn’t free; The Fisherman is kind enough to allow public access to the article. Why not support them with a subscription? You can do that here. Many thanks to my editor, Toby Lapinski, for giving me the opportunity to write about fly fishing subjects that matter.

You can read about how I caught this gorgeous creature in the article. Photo by Toby Lapinski.

Presentation is everything in fly fishing.

Presentation is so important — the only thing that’s more important is a sharp hook — that I thought I would share some of the critical points from last’s night’s Zoom. Thanks to everyone who attended — we had a great turnout. In no particular order:

The wrong fly presented correctly will always out fish the right fly presented incorrectly. I showed a video that demonstrated this.

When you’re deciding on which line, leader length and size, and fly pattern, ask this question: What do you want the fly to do? The best answer should reflect what the fish are eating and how they’re eating it.

Fly fishing is all about line control, and a floating line gives you, by far, the most control over your presentation in current. The importance of mending cannot be overstated. Even slight, nearly imperceptible mends that produce a more natural drift can mean the difference between fishing and catching.

A sinking line and a weighted fly are usually a poor choice for catching fish feeding near the surface. Would you toss a Tungsten cone head Woolly Bugger to trout feeding on Hendrickson emergers?

This 15-pound bass came on one of those nights where anglers leaving the mark complained about fish busting that they couldn’t catch. They were using the wrong line, the wrong fly, and the wrong presentation. Learn the value of presentation, and watch your catch rates soar!

A longer leader will give you a better dry fly drift, and allow you to make more mends without disturbing the natural track of the fly.

“The difference between fishing and catching is a single split shot.” Attributed to Joe Humphries. Regardless of the originator, it’s good advice when you’re nymphing. Adjust your weight to get the most productive drift.

See you next Tuesday.

Currentseams Tuesday Night Zoom, Feb. 23, 8pm: Presentation — Why It’s So Important

You can be in the right place and the right time with the right fly. But if your presentation is off, you can still blank. Presentation is everything — that’s our mantra for this Currentseams Tuesday Night Zoom. If you haven’t been getting the Zoom links — I send them out Tuesday late afternoon — please check your spam box. See you then!

Today’s Zoom Tying Class is at 3:30 p.m. Spaces still available.

I had to change the time of the class to 3:30 p.m., so I thank everyone who signed up for being so flexible. We’re going to be tying “Favorite Nymphs,” proven patterns that get a lot of action when I’m in the mood to go low and slow. There’s still time to join us if you like; the cost is $10 and you register by sending me the fee through PayPal. See you at 3:30.

Filling corks on a winter’s day…

Farmington River Report 2/18/21: Icy cold (and not just the streamer bite)

I fish the way I want to fish, and sometimes that means I go fishless. I’m OK with that. When it lines up, I may be doing battle with multiple high-teens browns. When it’s a day like yesterday, I get the not-a-touch trudge through the snow back to my car, wondering if my feet will ever be warm again.

Not that I’m complaining. I had a blast. Due to the inclement weather, angler activity was almost at its Farmington River-winter-ten-years-ago level. You still can’t access the majority of dirt pull-offs (they’re currently snowplow pile pull-offs) so you’re stuck with the major parking areas. That didn’t prevent me from going for a walk to find solitude. I fished three marks within the Permanent TMA (no slush, 370cfs). I started off tight-lining jig mini-streamers, but that was a problem with the 24-degree air temp; frozen beads of river clinging to the exposed leader. So I switched locations and did the traditional full-sink line. I did catch a lot of the bottom. Sadly, it never fought back.

Then, I decided to experiment. What would happen if I fished the mini-jig under an indicator? I could bounce it along the bottom, or suspend it near the bottom. I had one of my bigger home-brew yarn indicators with me, so I re-rigged and had at it. I tried it in different kinds of water, from fast-moving glides to languid dry-fly pools. In the faster water, I had to constantly check the indicator upstream and mend to prevent the fly from moving too quickly, but the rig proved to be the answer to the iced-up leader problem. Just because I didn’t connect doesn’t mean it won’t work on another day. More research to come…and I encourage you to try new things when you’re on the river.

Tip of the Week: Target water near shelf ice when you’re winter streamer fishing

Shelf ice can be a problem when you’re out on a river — NEVER walk across shelf ice — but it can also be a difference maker when it comes to catching, especially on a river like the Farmington. The Farmington River has hatches of W/S (Winter/Summer) caddis. These bugs emerge, then scoot across the surface of the water towards the shore to mate. Trout know this — not in a cognitive sense, but rather in a programmed-by-nature way. If the water is deep enough, and there’s enough current, you can often find Farmington River trout hanging out near bankside structure in winter, especially ice shelves.

That makes these areas a priority target when I’m winter streamer fishing. If I find an ice shelf over deeper, moving water, I like to pound that water with my bugs. Sometimes I’ll even land the streamer onto the ice shelf, then gently pull it off into the water. The trout will tell you if they want the presentation to be a dead drift, slow retrieve, fast(er) retrieve, or swing.

You can’t really see it in this video, but I’m actually landing my streamer on top of an ice shelf that extends several feet off the bank. On this day, the only hits I had came from using this tactic.